Lincoln County commissioner Joel Arends is one of the newest members of the commission, coming on the commission in January.
Arends, who lives in southern Sioux Falls in the Harrisburg School District, represents District 1. District 1 encompasses Springdale Township, Harrisburg and Sioux Falls precincts 2-15, 1-18 and 2-13 noncontiguous to the majority of the city.
He decided to run for county commission because of property taxes.
“Most folks in my neighborhood were pretty upset about the big increase in their property taxes and they’re wondering where all of their money was going,” Arends said. “The other issue for me was making sure people were getting the essential services that the county offers.”
In the last year, he feels like has learned a lot and contributed a lot.
“I think one of the biggest issues we’ve been able to work on is insuring that people get the best investment they can for their property taxes that they spent,” he said.
Two of the biggest issues Arends has seen in the last year with the commission is drainage and roads.
“We’re trying to get the water from where it starts to where it needs to go,” he said.
Arends referenced the 18-month study the county is doing on drainage in the county. They continue to have public meetings on the topic.
Roads are important for everything and everyone in South Dakota, Arends said. He noted that he voted no on an opt-out earlier this year and thinks there is a better plan.
“The proposal I supported and I came up with would have targeted specific monies to specific projects so if it comes back up again to look at, but what I’m very concerned about is even when it comes to county government is I don’t want to write a blank check for projects that are not pre-identified ahead of time,” he said. “My opinion is property taxpayers ought to know where their money is going before we vote for it to go out the door.”
Arends grew up on a farm near Little Rock, IA. He enlisted in the military out of high school and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of South Dakota, where he also got his law degree.
He has spent 26 years in the military on active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve. He became an officer in college. Now he serves as a deputy brigade commander in the Army Reserve. He was deployed to Iraq as an infantry platoon leader in late 2003 and returned in 2005.
Today he owns his own law firm in Sioux Falls that deals with civil matters like family law, probates and estates.
He and his wife, Robin, who is an associate professor in nursing at South Dakota University, have lived in Sioux Falls since 2001. They have a senior, freshman and 9-year-old who are all in the Catholic School System in Sioux Falls.
Arends said Lincoln County is unique in South Dakota because it has a heavy urban footprint and a significant agricultural footprint.
“I think I understand both the agricultural issues pretty well, but also the urban issues pretty well from having lived in Sioux Falls,” he said. “In the Sioux Falls area just because of the rapid growth we’ve had, we’re facing such unique issues right now and I think my experience growing up on a farm prepares us to deal with this kind of stuff.”
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